(Graphic: Erik Mace)
Depending on your personality, planning is either the best or the worst part of travel.
I, for one, definitely fall into the latter camp. I’m what they call a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of girl, which lends itself nicely to impromptu Saturday jaunts and long, rambling walks in the city.
Use social media to plan a vacation that will look great on social media. (Photo: Thinkstock)
The problem with planning is that I think it’s boring. And overwhelming. Did I mention boring? I just want to be there already, doing all the fun stuff I already planned (ah, the irony).
Thankfully, though, there is an easy-to-use tool that can help: Pinterest. You may already be familiar with the platform’s magical ability to induce wanderlust, but the photo-sharing site is also an indispensable tool when it comes to turning travel fantasies into a reality.
Don’t let it scare you. Pinterest wants to be a traveler’s friend. (Photo: Pinterest)
It is also getting more useful every single day.
Last month, Pinterest added new location data to 7 billion pins. With just a tap, pinners can now get directions to a location, visit a website, view hours, get contact information, and read reviews from other visitors and guests. It’s like Google, but prettier.
Best of all, Pinterest makes the mundane aspects of planning fun. I caught up with a handful of Pinterest pros to get the scoop on how best to use the platform to plan your next vacation.
Step 1: Learn the basics. If you’ve never used the platform before, start by heading over to pinterest.com and creating an account. You can also log in using Facebook.
Pinterest will prompt you to select at least five topics you’re interested in so they can create a custom feed with images you’ll probably be into. For our purposes, you want to make sure to select topics that focus (obviously) on travel. There are tons of options, including budget-conscious trips and romantic getaways. Pins from these topics will now populate your feed.
If you already have some idea of what you’re looking for in a trip (say, a hike that takes you to a waterfall), you can search multiple keywords in the search bar. If you see something you like, click on the “Pin It” button in the upper-left-hand corner. Pinterest will then prompt you to name the board (“travel,” “places to go,” and “wish list” are some suggestions) where your pin will now live. To view your board(s), click on your name in the upper-right-hand corner and you will be directed to your profile page.
Love beach vacations? Let Pinterest know that. (Photo: Pinterest)
Step 2: Get inspired. This is the fun part. Before you nail down exactly where you want to go, create a board of “bucket list destinations.”
“Pinterest can help you discover [what you like] even if you don’t have the words to describe it,” says Christy Woodrow of the immensely popular Ordinary Traveler.
In other words, you may fall in love with a place you’ve never even heard of or discover a spot that’s closer to home than you’d expect. Start perusing Pinterest’s topics, which will have already loaded in your feed, use the search function, or follow one of our recommended boards below.
WATCH: Become a Jetsetter With These Travel Sites
Step 3: Create a mapped board. Once you’ve got some idea of where you want to go, head to your profile (by clicking on your name in the upper-right-hand corner) and click on “Create a New Board.” In the dialog box that appears, toggle the switch on the Map option.
Ta-da! You’ve just created a mapped board. As you add pins, they’ll start showing up on the board’s map (which runs at the top of the page), allowing you to visualize the distance between each of your desired destinations. “It helps you plan out an itinerary and works great for road trips too,” says Christine Schirmer, a rep for the platform. You might realize that it makes more sense to fly into a different airport or that one of your planned stops is simply too far off course.
Now pinners can get a map of all their pins. (Photo: Pinterest)
Step 4: Research. The best thing about Pinterest is that it stops you from reinventing the wheel. It is highly likely that some other traveler has taken the exact same trip you want to be taking. They have probably already done all the research — complete with follow-up reviews and advice. Gary Arndt of Everything-Everywhere recommends following a handful of boards devoted to your destination, ideally ones with “rich pins” (i.e., pins with location data) that can be added to your map. Don’t limit yourself to the boards of travel magazines and guidebooks. “Look for pinners who have experience in the place you want to visit,” says Arndt. Most pins link to a page with more detailed information, and thanks to Pinterest’s new capabilities, hours of operations and reviews are easily accessed directly from the platform. By scrolling all the way down to see “related pins,” you can find even more activity ideas or hotel options, pinned by others on the same topic.
Step 5: Search smart. In order to get the most out of your searches, Arndt recommends switching up your keywords. “Don’t search just for ‘restaurants in Miami’ but also for ‘where to eat in Miami’ and other similar terms,” he says. “You will get different results.” And don’t forget to scroll down. The search function is your friend, but don’t just focus on the top pins in each search. They are not always the best ones.
Step 6: Make it happen. By this point, you should have a pretty good idea about the place you’re going — which hotels you’d like to stay at, where you’d like to eat, and how you want to spend your time. It’s easy to get carried away, so take a discerning look at your board and where your pins fall on the map and eliminate anything that’s simply unrealistic. If you’re planning a multistop trip, the map can help you figure out your route and which city it makes the most sense to come and go from. Then the only thing left to do is book!
Top travel boards to follow
For tips and advice:
For the adventurer:
For the luxury lover:
For the culture junkie:
For beach fanatics: